So the european football season has now finally begun!
About time too after weeks and weeks of crazy transfer rumors and even crazier transfers has left me starving for actual action.
So naturally this weekend I watched a lot!
Things started of very slow with the second half of the Italian Super Cup. And on what was a crappy stream I'm not sure how much I have to offer there about the game itself but it's a nice excuse for a little Inter rambling:
I'm not sure Mourinho is fully set yet on whether he will be using the for Inter very successful 4-4-2 diamond or his own beloved anti-dutch 4-3-3, but one luxury Inter has is a lot of depth at most positions and Mourinho really has a lot of options.
I think even if it can seem very unlike Mourinho that within the 4-4-2 diamond he recognizes that an elite creative player in front of Cambiasso is needed to take that system to a level that's better than just being able to best what in the recent post-calciopoli years has been a very weakened Serie A.
At least compared to what were the recent glory days of italian domination with at times as much as seven clubs being among the best in Europe.
An elite creative player needed to reach that 10 percent chance he recently claimed they have right now of winning the elusive European Cup.
Really with a solid cast of quality defensive or just very capable two-way players the diamond could quite easily afford say a Deco (Van Der Vaart and Sneijder have also been mentioned) when surrounded by guys like Cambiasso and a rotating supporting cast featuring the likes of the resurgent Thiago Motta, Stankovic, Muntari and last but not least the ageless Javier Zanetti, without comprimising the defensive side of things but actually strengthening the overall balance of the team.
Ideally Mourinho would probably still prefer his effective 4-3-3 system where an effective attack is in place without ever compromising the defense and I think he secretly hopes that players like Amautovic, Suarez and an improving Balotelli can succed where players like Mancini and Quaresma failed so hard that middle of the season he had to give the system entirely up.
If the Mourinho 4-3-3 at some point again becomes the permanent fixture I'll give my very long take on it since I find it quite fascinating how the primarely most attacking system here is turned into a very calculating defensive one.
But the Super Cup itself? What did I see? Other than very bad picture quality, not much.
Well Eto'o looked kinda good. Not very 36yearoldish which I suspect is closer to his real age than the 28 his passport so wrongly claims.
Yes he will be good when healthy and Inter have a lot of forward depth so they will be in no way as dependant on him like they were on now departed Ibrahimovic.
It will especially be interesting to see Diego Milito finally get a chance at a big club.
One he definitely deserves after years of excellent play.
Then it was time for what was a very grandiose Bundesliga opening. Live on national german tv and they even had an opening ceremony!
This was after all a tremendous success last season with enormous crowds filling very good post German World Cup facilities and almost shameless attacking play from just about everyone making just about every german understandably very excited about his league.
Last season every single top team on average let in more than one goal per game and that's just crazy!
This was very very open play and if as a starting striker you didn't net good double figures what an utter failure you were:
There was however no failure whatsoever from champions Wolfsburg's attacking duo up front of Dzeko and Grafite, or should I say trio cause Misimovic with his creativity was a huge part of it, and they just couldn't stop scoring even if they tried and the younger of the two, Dzeko attracted a lot of attention from various European top clubs.
The fact that a club like Wolfsburg resisted pressure to sell to traditional giants like AC Milan, that alone speaks volumes and they deserve a lot of credit for it.
The opening game itself actually wasn't that open and perhaps, perhaps not(!), a sign of what Wolfsburg will face this season. What I think an 80 goals scored attacking machine SHOULD face this season.
Stuttgart came out with a defensive gameplan and in large parts of the 90 minutes controlled things very well with plenty of people working behind the ball minimizing space.
For a while they were even creating the better chances. Making excellent use of the qualities of new signing Pogrebnyak up front and some very nice looking two-way play from Sami Khedira from behind.
On the defensive side of things "Aston Villa legend" and now VBF captain Thomas Hitzlsperger did mostly a great job on Misimovic while Alexander Hleb on the forward side of things looked like he still has some ways to go before returning to his old impressive form.
Sadly one slip up is all it takes against this good an attack and for the first time really there wasn't instant pressure on Misimovic and he was left with some actual space, he took matters into his own hands and just outside the penalty area fired a nice shot past the Stuttgart keeper and in many ways that was that really.
Stuttgart like they simply had to now tried to attack, but before getting anything going really, was very predictably punished for the space now left behind.
Last season's top scorer Grafite had a one on one situation with a defender that he easily won with part power, part technique and made it 2-0. Game over!
In between my main focus on Serie A, the English Premier League and La Liga I don't really know how much Bundesliga I'll be able to squeeze into my very busy sports addiction scheduele, but just like its total opposite, the lately quite defensive French League, I'll definitely watch out for interesting games on the horizon. And hopefully write about them too!
I don't know either if I'll do an organized actual preview of anything either, the leagues I mean, or more take things as they come and go from there.
Watch some games every week and analyze from that. That way I also think I'll eventually have touched upon a lot of the interesting transfers that's been taking place.
Finally, I of course also watched the Charity Shield game.
Everytime basically the top teams from England face eachother it's a must watch these days. They're all european elite and the level of play is generally very high and therefore great to watch.
This was extra interesting because it would be a first look at Ancelotti's Chelsea and how would that constellation work?
It's too early to conclude much from one match of course and that happened to be especially the case in this game where I found myself concluding completely different things from each half.
The first half was in some ways a worst case scenario for what the Chelsea/Ancelotti partnership could result in and it actually brought back otherwise long forgotten memories of Ancelotti back in the day when he came to Juventus continuing with the exact same style and tactics he had used on what was his quite different Parma team.
Now of course here we have a Chelsea team COMPLETELY different from Ancelotti's AC Milan yet what did I see?
Unbelievably in that first half, Chelsea was kind of looking like Milan. Stylewise as well as tactically.
The ball was passed around quite a bit in their own half. That doesn't have to be a bad thing if you have Andrea Pirlo but with Jon Obi Mikel it's a different story.
Ivanovic on rightback looked like he had been asked to do a Cafu impression with the guy who might have been able to do that on the bench, Bosingwa, Ivanovic struggled mightely.
Even the always superb Essien, for many years now easily one of the best players in the world, struggled and couldn't defend the wing very effectively.
That's understandable when it's C. Ronaldo but this was Nani and he quite easily exploited what was a lack of Chelsea balance in that first half.
In order for that midfield diamond with its lack of width to work against this good a 4-4-2, with lots of width, possession needs to be quality and the ball not given away. The fullbacks creating width not getting caught forwardish on their heels.
But Chelsea does not have the players to substain that high level of possession (though I won't rule out Deco and Zhirkov contributing there) so ball was lost and the result was a very uncharacteristic unbalanced Chelsea defense.
Great job Carlo!
Then came the second half and it was more like same old Chelsea.
Whether it was player or coach adjustment I of course can't now, but play became much more direct with deeper passing and if the ball was lost it was sure to be lost deep in the opponent's half where it doesn't matter much and you can obtain solid defensive positioning while not constantly being on your backheels.
Generally when Chelsea gets direct passes to their players in around the penalty area, bad things tends to happen to the opponent.
That's where players like Lampard, Ballack, Malouda, Anelka and of course especially Drogba, the prime weapon, are effective and players around them benefit resulting in scoring chances (even for someone like Cavalho).
No need to pass the ball around in their own half. Get it up there and let them do their thing!
That's what they generally did in that second half and it resulted in a couple of goals.
It will be interesting to see which of the two halves we'll see the most of or if some sort of effective middleground can be found. Maybe Anelka playing a different role than being a pure striker or maybe just another midfielder in there to counter all the 4-4-2 width Ancelotti's system will now face in England.
I did think Hiddink found that great ground of playing to his team's strenghts but if Ancelotti goes the Scolari way and ignores his team's actual strenghts then it's a golden opportunity for a title lost, against rivals, who unlike Chelsea, have all lost key players.
Manchester United of course I still expect to replace at least some of the world class they've lost with the departures of Tevez and Ronaldo. Something that just hasn't happened yet.
I think both David Silva and Kun Aguero who there have both been speculations about could put them over the top and despite, as I'm writing this rumors seemingly dying down, I'll still be suprised if there isn't a major signing sooner rather than later.
Can a team not replacing two such great players really win the title against what are the strongest top 4-5 in Europe?
I don't think the Charity Shield provided much of an answer to that question, and a lot of it I guess will be how Liverpool and Arsenal react to their own losses of key players (and Chelsea to their new manager).
All in all the EPL with it's 4 or 5 horse race, where others are just 2 or 3 horse races, looks very unpredictable, so we shall see and I'll definitely be watching.